Happy Birthday, Maria, says the Soupster.
Originally published November 8, 2001
Hail pelted horizontally against the snug house that a fisherman friend of the Soupster’s had built for his family. Wind howled with gusts of 60 knots.
“Tell me the story about the pumpkins and the tuba, Poppa,” said Gwendolyne, the fisherman’s daughter, right then the snuggest person in the whole house. She was tucked in the bed her fisherman father had fashioned out of aromatic yellow cedar and her quilter mother had covered with colorful blankets.
The fisherman smiled: he had told her the pumpkin and tuba story many, many times, yet Gwendolyne kept asking for it.
“This young girl,” he began, “grew up on the roof of a house in a fancy city of hills and fog. And when the fog blew away, she could see many stars from the roof.”
As he told the story, the fisherman thought about being on the deck of his father’s boat as a youngster, watching those same stars over calm Northern waters. Him on deck, his father snoring below. “This girl went to a special school,” continued the fisherman, “where they taught you only two things. One was how to make food and share it with other children. The second was how to play a musical instrument.
“This particular girl loved to cut carrots. Although she was small, the teacher let her use an enormous knife. She made Julienne carrots, carrot salad and baked carrots stuffed with avocado and walnuts. Her classmates loved her.”
“Why did she play the tuba?” asked Gwendolyne, jumping ahead in the story.
“This particular girl thought the tuba was lonely because nobody else had picked it,” the fisherman said. “And she was also spirited and wanted to show how she could blow a big instrument even though she was small.”
“The same as she could use a big knife!”
“That’s right,” said the fisherman. “Every year, the whole class would get on a bus and travel to the pumpkin patch to pick out a pumpkin for Halloween and to make pies and roast the seeds.
“This particular girl loved going to the pumpkin patch. Even more than cutting carrots. The huge, round, shiny pumpkins with their dramatic green vines were new and exciting.
“Then, the girl went to a bigger school, where she learned to play the tuba better than anyone. And after years and years at the school, they let her teach other children how to cut things and how to share them.”
“And how to play musical instruments,” Gwendolyne reminded him dreamily.
“One day, when she was much older, this particular girl found a job as a teacher. What she didn’t know was that the job was in the very town with the pumpkin patch. Her very first day on the job, they had her take her tuba and play for the great-great-great grandchild of a pumpkin she’d met years before.”
Gwendolyne was asleep.
“After the fish is and iced in the hold,” the fisherman’s father had told him while they lolled on deck, under the starlight, “there’s always time to take a minute out of the rush. To think about who you are and what you’re doing. And who and what you love.”